NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) – It wasn’t all work and play for President Joe Biden Friday on this picturesque Massachusetts island.
He spent much of the day participating in multiple briefings with national security advisers, who were briefing him on the release of the first phase of hostages in Gaza earlier Friday. Biden then delivered brief remarks about the hostage deal, saying it was “just the beginning, but so far everything has gone well.”
But then the president joined in Biden’s traditional festivities the day after Thanksgiving — eating lunch with his family, browsing local stores and mingling with the Nantucket crowd as the town’s Christmas tree is lit.
Due to the remarks about the hostages, the traditional family lunch took place later than usual. But as always, it was at the Brotherhood of Thieves, a cozy bar and grill that bills itself as an “1840s whaling bar.”
Then the president’s shopping trip began.
Her first stop was a few doors down from the Nantucket Books restaurant, where first lady Jill Biden and her daughter Ashley were already browsing.
“I can’t come without going to the bookstore,” the president said as he entered. “We have a tradition.”
He left about 20 minutes later, carrying a copy of “Democracy Awakening” by historian Heather Cox Richardson, who interviewed Biden at the White House last year.
Biden then stopped at Craftmasters of Nantucket, followed by a quick stop at Jeweler’s Gallery. He was greeted throughout his march by cheering crowds, shouts of “happy birthday” (the president celebrated his 81st birthday Monday) and people waving and taking photos of the first family.
Eventually, the Bidens found themselves at Nantucket’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, cheering as the town crier led the countdown and the tree was illuminated with colorful lights.
Biden’s outing was interrupted twice by pro-Palestinian protesters, once earlier Friday as he walked to lunch, then again by a handful of protesters at the tree ceremony that were making their way to the front of the crowd. Leaning against metal barricades and holding banners reading “Free Palestine,” protesters chanted: “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide. We accuse you of genocide!
It was unclear whether the president – who was greeting the children’s choir members – had heard them. A local official urged protesters to stop, emphasizing that the community event was not political.
Visiting Nantucket for Thanksgiving is a decades-long tradition for the Biden family.
Joe and Jill first came here for the vacation with their young sons, Beau and Hunter, in the mid-1970s. As they have in previous years, the Bidens are staying at a sprawling resort owned by the man billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, according to the White House.